I don’t know how I came up with the idea, but when I was a teenager I had a realisation that of all the things you could do in life, creating art is a practice that is truly immortal.
Growing up in Sydney: a highly developed, relatively expensive city to live in; I had the belief that one should aim for a well-paid career that would contribute to society in some way. I would think through the various options: lawyer, doctor, scientist… While I dabbled in some way in the peripheries of these fields, I’ve come to realise that my initial idea about the immortality of art holds a lot of credit. The more I thought about the various career options, I came to see – perhaps ironically – that being an artist may be the most noble and everlasting occupation one could choose.
When you create a piece of art: be it visual (a painting, film, photograph, documentary) or audible (music, for example), it can truly live on beyond your time on this earth. I was reminded of this when we received the sad news of David Bowie’s passing this week. I read about how very driven David was in his final year (not to mention throughout his life, of course). Only close friends and family knew of his illness, and according to his colleagues his energy and motivation were extraordinary. One colleague described being “in awe”. He was completely present in the moment, and plunged himself into his art. He knew of its importance. And indeed, his art will live on well beyond his life – and already is.
Another good example of the immortality of art is Vincent van Gogh. Throughout his entire life he had only ever sold one painting. And yet, he was driven throughout his life: dedicated to his practice, he worked tirelessly to create what are now recognised as true “works of art.” I’ll bet he never imagined that there would be an entire museum dedicated to his work, and yet there he was: working doggedly throughout his life with very little money to his name. His dedication was complete, and many generations have enjoyed his work since.
I remember hearing a spiritual leader pose the question, what if people were paid commensurate with their contribution to our society? I thought it was a very good question. Imagine how different the world would be: artists, musicians, spiritual leaders would probably get paid a lot more than accountants. And yet here we are where the opposite is true. But, I suppose we do live in a market-driven society which explains a lot about pay scales and salaries.
In any case, it’s an interesting thought to ponder. What is the contribution you would like to make to your society? Is pay grade more important than artistic expression and inspiring people to look beyond what they already know? I personally am passionate about the Arts, and always have been. I can see the real value that the Arts contribute to society and to individuals, and it’s interesting to think about how that contribution may last well beyond your own lifetime.